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Okay I know I'm overthinking this, but I chose B instead of C because I thought it suggested an alternate cause to the effect which would be that: those who completed the program were already more intelligent/high achieving than those who didn't. This would give a cause that would be behind both program completion + achievements after the program. I'm def overthinking this because C clearly provides an alternate cause right??
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Hi daydreamingsamosa!

Check out Jay's discussion of answer choice (B) above:
The issue I have with B is one of relativity vs absolutism. B implies that the children who completed the program started at a higher level of academic achievement than those who didn't finish, which makes us flirt with the idea that perhaps it wasn't chess skills at all but rather innate knowledge or intelligence that attributed to their ending levels. Problem with that line of reasoning however, is that after the program concluded it wasn't the case that the students who finished had high levels of schoolwork achievement, but rather that they had an INCREASE in achievement levels. Since we are concluding about the relative growth rather than an absolute mark of achievement level, their starting levels were largely irrelevant to how much they may have increased over time.
The argument is about an increase in achievement levels which means that wherever they started is irrelevant. It's about the change from when they started to after completion. But good job being on the lookout for those alternate causes!

Hope this helps!

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I don't see why (C) weakens the causal relationship claimed. Because even when needing a higher grade for the membership promotes achievement, chess playing can also do this simultaneously.

Two interpretations are:
  • Chess playing exercises helped the students get the grades, which makes them think of attending the chess team because they now satisfy a higher grade requirement, which doesn't at all affect the causal relationship
  • The students want to seek membership in the chess team, which requires higher achievement, so they participate in the program to have higher grades, which they did, which confirms the causal relationship
  • The students want to seek membership in the chess team during the program, and the team happens to require higher achievement, and the program still helps them attain such achievement
As both motivations can occur simultaneously, the existence of an alternative/complementary motivation doesn't weaken the claim that chess playing increases such achievement.
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 Jeff Wren
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Hi roesttezz,

It appears from your interpretations that you're assuming that the chess program DID increase the students' academic achievements. The problem is that we don't actually know that at all based on the evidence. This is what the argument concludes, but like most causal arguments, it is inherently flawed.

Here's what we know.

A small group of children learned to play chess in an experimental program and then most had an increase in their academic achievement. Based on that (and nothing more), the argument concludes that the skills developed by learning chess caused the increase in the students' academic performances.

It's important to note that the causal argument is specifically about the "reasoning power and spatial intuition" developed from chess caused the students' improved academic performance. In other words, a situation like Answer C which suggests that the students were motivated to get better grades in order to be on the school chess team does not fall within this causal explanation.

Maybe the chess skills caused the academic improvement, maybe they didn't. There could be any number of possible explanations for the students' improvement that have nothing to do with chess. We just don't know either way.

You mentioned that chess skills could be improving academic performance simultaneously with Answer C, but it is also possible that the skills developed learning chess had nothing to do with the students' improvement and that all of the students' improvement was due to some other cause (such as a desire to join the chess team, as mentioned in Answer C.) Given that this is a possibility (even if we are not certain that is what really happened), it weakens the claim that chess skills by themselves improve academic performance.

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